NHGRI/ Bldg. 49/4A04
July 26, 2008
To all of the participants in the Colby Undergraduate Student Research Retreat:
Thank you all very much for inviting me to give a talk at your retreat. It was a great honor for me to be invited and I was grateful for the opportunity to show you some of the work done in my lab by Colby alums. I was very impressed with the entire retreat, beginning with the organization, and extending through the location, the science and the atmosphere. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for all involved and I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of it. If I could, I’d like to point out a few things that I thought were extremely important and valuable.
Firstly, I was VERY impressed with both the quality of the research presented AND the quality of the presentations. After having 15 Colby alums in the lab and watching them outperform students trained at other schools like Stanford, MIT, Duke and Yale, I am no longer surprised that Colby students are getting the opportunity to do important research. However, I continue to be impressed with the selection of important projects to work on, the focus on a specific question and the application of state of the art instrumentation and techniques to solve them. This was very clear in all of the talks and poster presentations, but is was also clear in casual conversations. I think 10 minutes talks are the most difficult to give, particularly to a diverse audience, but your talks were uniformly excellent. You have a very vigorous program in the sciences and you are very fortunate to be getting such outstanding training opportunities. I think it is appropriate to divide credit equally between the students and their mentors.
Secondly, I thought that the opportunity to get away from the school and the lab was an outstanding opportunity for everyone involved to become energized by the breadth and depth of the science being done at Colby. If this event had been held on campus, I think that the temptation to get back to the lab to finish another experiment or attend to some house keeping would have prevented everyone from interacting as fully as you were able to at Crab Apple. I hope that all of you were as energized as I was to see so many poised and confident student researchers. Believe me, I see a lot of grad students and post docs that have taken much longer times to generate far less convincing results that they present without poise or enthusiasm. All of the presenters of the talks and posters should go off to your respective careers with a great deal of confidence knowing that you are extremely well prepared.
Finally, I though that the career advice was outstanding. Writing a research proposal is an important skill that has outstanding benefits, and Colby’s curriculum gives you a lot more writing experience than most scientists get. Writing a proposal forces you to think and write clearly about your research interest, which helps your presentations and thesis/paper writing, but also helps you focus on the most important experiments to do. Once you have finished the first application, you should realize that modified versions of the same proposal can be sent to multiple funding sources, making it easier to apply and increasing the odds of getting an award. The best favor my post doc advisor ever did for me was to force me to write fellowship applications. I was fortunate enough to be successful, and those awards distinguished me from thousands of other post docs entering the field and gave me many opportunities down the road. Those awards are still a very prominent part of my cv.
I think we all ought to thank Kevin Rice for putting together an outstanding program at a fantastic venue. Now that you all have survived rafts and Whitney King water attacks on the Kennebec River, it is time to get back to research. Good luck with your research and keep up the good work.
Dr. David M. Bodine, Ph.D.
Chief, Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch
Chief, Hematopoiesis Section
National Institute for Human Genome Research
49 Convent Drive, MSC-4442, Room 4A04
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: (301) 402-0902
FAX: (301) 402-4929